Tony counted the notes and coins. He had Rs. 163 in all.

He put the money in his pocket, the money he had saved from his part time job. Today was Christmas eve and he had some important shopping to do.

As he walked towards the market he thought of Christmas eve the previous year. How lovely everything had been. His father, Jacob Kurien, and he had decorated the Christmas tree. He had gone with his mum, Janet and dad to the church to attend the midnight mass.

The next day his mum had baked a huge Christmas cake. He had spent the entire morning opening the gifts which his parents had given him. Later, he and his parents had danced and sang late into the night.

Two weeks later, just a few days before his twelfth birthday, his world had been completely shattered. Jacob was a Correspondent working for The National Tribune. He had been sent to a terrorist-infested area in the north east to do a special story. He had been kidnapped by the terrorists. A week later they had issued a press release mentioning that Jacob had been killed while trying to

Janet and Tony had slowly picked up the pieces of their broken
lives. They had moved to a smaller house in a different locality. Janet had started supplying lunch to office goers working in the offices situated in the multistoried buildings close by. Tony had shifted to a less expensive school closer to their house.

To supplement his mother’s earnings he had taken up the job of delivering newspapers on his cycle early in the morning.

Then two months ago Janet fell ill. The doctor had diagnosed typhoid. She had been advised complete bed rest but hadn’t paid any heed. As a
result, a month later, she had a relapse. Whatever savings they had were spent on her treatment. They had nothing to spend on Christmas.

Janet was very depressed this Christmas. So Tony decided that he would buy a nice gift for her and a Christmas cake. He was sure this would cheer her up at least a wee bit.

The Spirit of Christmas [Illustration by Shinod A.P.]
The Spirit of Christmas [Illustration by Shinod A.P.]

After reaching the main market Tony stepped into a textiles shop and bought a light pink shawl for his mother. It cost him Rs 130.

He next went to a bakery which was right across. At the counter was a middle aged man with a gentle face.

“Uncle can I get a cake for Rs 33 please?”

The man looked at him and smiled.

“I am sorry son. The cheapest we have costs Rs 40.”

Disappointment writ large on his face Tony turned back and started
walking out.”

“Hey? Young man wait a minute. Don’t look so sad. Today is Christmas Eve. I don’t want to see any sad faces today. Here take the cake and Merry Christmas to you .”

“Merry Christmas Uncle and thank you so much,” Tony handed him the
money, took the cake and walked out into the cold night.

As he was walking he heard a voices calling out for alms. Tony stopped and looked around. A woman was sitting on the pavement under a tree begging. She appeared blind. Two kids, a girl aged six and a two year old boy, were sitting beside her. Seeing him stop the girl came forward limping.

Tony involuntarily dipped his hand in his pocket. Seeing this gesture the girl scrambled up, her hands stretched forward and her eyes brightened. She said something to her mother which Tony couldn’t follow. A smile appeared on the blind woman’s face and she started blessing him and thanking him in anticipation of his largesse.

It was then that Tony realised to his dismay that his pockets were empty.

He didn’t have even a ten paise coin to give to the woman and her kids. He shook his head and started walking away but then feeling terribly guilty at having raised their hopes, he retraced his steps and thrust the packet containing the cake in the girl’s

As he walked away he looked back. The packet had been ripped open
and all three were eating ravenously. The old woman, in between gulps, was shouting, “God bless you Son. May all your wishes be fulfilled.”

A few metres later Tony came to the City Park and sat down on the
bench. The faces of the beggars kept haunting him.

As he was about to get up he saw a man sitting huddled up, in the next bench. He got up and went across. He was an old man of around seventy years of age with white hair and beard. He was clad in a white half shirt and dark trousers and was shivering in the cold.

“What happened Grandpa? Are you not keeping well?”

“It…it’s the cold son…..I can’t bear this cold,” he whispered.

“Then why don’t you put on something warmer or at least go to a warmer place.”

“I have no money and no place to go son.”

Tony felt really sad for this man. He removed the shawl from the packet, wrapped it around the old man and walked away without looking back.

As he walked down the lane towards his house the sounds of celebration kept echoing in his ears.

Suddenly Tony felt utterly lonely and sad. His house looked completely desolate amidst all the brightness and grandeur. He ran straight to Saint Mary’s Church and there, sitting on the last bench, he started sobbing.

“What’s wrong son?” he heard the deep voice of Father Thomas.

He looked up tears streaming down his face.

“Nothing Father…I…. I am feeling….” he couldn’t complete his

Father sat beside him and taking Tony’s hand in his he gently
asked, “Tell me son, what happened? On this day atleast you should not be crying.”

Tony started speaking and slowly everything tumbled out.

“Father the whole world is celebrating except my mother and I.”

“Son, I think no one has celebrated Christmas with greater sincerity
than you have.”

“I… I don’t understand Father.”

“Son, Christmas is not merely about cutting cakes, singing carols,
decorating trees and partying throughout the night. The true spirit of Christmas is in giving and sharing. It is in showing love and
kindness. And that is exactly what you have done. You have celebrated Christmas in the truest sense. By helping the poor and the needy you have served God.”

Next morning Tony woke up with a start. Someone was knocking on the
door. He looked at the clock. It was five am. Who could it be at this hour? He looked at his mum. She was fast asleep.

Tony opened the door and the world stood still. Standing before him was his father Jacob. He looked much thinner and a lot weaker, but it was him. Tony couldn’t believe his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out.

“Tony, my son? How are you? Jacob picked him up and hugged him and
kissed him scores of times, tears streaming down his face. Tony simply clung to him, too shocked to say anything.

His father wasn’t dead. He wasn’t dead. God had answered Tony’s deepest, sincerest wish. Together the two walked to Janet’s room.

1215 words | 12 minutes
Readability: Grade 4 (9-10 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: stories
Tags: #money, #christmas, #church, #christmas eve

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